March 25, 2020 / 11:24 AM / 7 days ago

Honeymoon nightmare: Ukrainian stranded at Moscow airport as virus rules kick in

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Anton Scherbyna has been living in the security zone of a Moscow airport for nearly a week since returning from a honeymoon with his Russian wife only to fall foul of Russia’s new ban on foreigners entering due to the coronavirus emergency.

A Ukrainian citizen Anton Scherbyna poses for a selfie at the Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia March 25, 2020. Scherbyna is one of dozens of foreign nationals stranded at Moscow's airports after Russian authorities barred foreigners from entering in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Anton Scherbyna/Handout via REUTERS

The Ukrainian national, who works in Moscow as a teacher, now sleeps on a row of seats, eats airline food and uses Vnukovo airport’s lavatory facilities to wash and stay clean.

“The conditions are probably better than in a Russian prison, but worse than normal living conditions,” Scherbyna, 31, told Reuters via Skype from the security zone.

Scherbyna is one of dozens of foreign nationals stranded at Moscow’s airports after Russian authorities barred foreigners from entering until May 1 in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Russia has so far reported 658 confirmed coronavirus cases and canceled many flights to and from the country. One person who tested positive for coronavirus has died.

Sporting a goatee beard and a blue sweater, Scherbyna could fly back to his native Ukraine via Minsk or Istanbul, but said the remaining tickets were exorbitantly-priced and that it made no sense for him to fly there because he lives in Moscow.

With their honeymoon in Montenegro now a fast-fading memory, Scherbyna’s wife has gone back to their Moscow home but is not allowed to visit him in the airport’s security zone.

“I’ve started to think about ways to make money remotely,” Scherbyna said. “If I have to stay here longer, I will have to do this because we will be in a difficult financial situation like many others here.”

Scherbyna said airport employees had distributed blankets to those stranded but that little else was being done to resolve the situation.

“If this is all being done against the virus, then you have a chance of catching it here in conditions in which there are lots of people flying out and new people finding themselves in my situation everyday.”

Several hundred citizens of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have in recent days also been stranded at Moscow’s four airports after their flights were canceled, but many managed to fly out later on charter flights.

Vnukovo Airport told Reuters it would not comment on the presence of passengers in its security zone, referring questions to the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Foreign Ministry.

Reporting by Peter Scott; additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Katya Golubkova/Andrew Osborn/Gareth Jones

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